The New Testament and the Mishna: Ancient Scripture Tour of Galilee

What makes Galilee the center of ancient Holy scripture?

After the destruction of the first temple of Solomon, the religious center for Jews moved to Galilee. The Sanhedrin, the religious Jewish authority, convened at Saphorris, Beth Shearim, and Tiberias. Rabbi Yehudah Hanasi, who canonized the Mishna, alongside many other Rabbis mentioned in the Mishna, lived in Galilee. During the first century AD, Jesus lived in Galilee too. According to the New Testament, Jesus was a Jewish Rabbi who performed miracles and taught the Bible to his disciples. In fact, most of the Gospels revolve around Jesus’s ministry in Galilee. After the crucifixion, the New Testament was written about Jesus and his disciples. In short, the Holiest books in Christianity and Judaism were written in Galilee.

Sea of Galilee


What composes the New Testament?

The New Testament is composed of 27 books, describing Jesus and his disciples. The four Gospels describe Jesus’s life, from His miraculous birth to the crucifixion and resurrection on Sunday. The remainder tells the acts of the apostles, their epistles, and the apocalypse. The gospels are not identical. Analyzing the four gospels shows different perspectives about Jesus’s life. There are also contradicting aspects that one could be curious about. For example, the earliest written gospel, Mark, is placed second in the New Testament. Why is this? Why was Matthew chosen to begin the New Testament? Why is the birth of Jesus not described in Mark? Another striking phenomenon is the words and phrases which were first used in the New Testament and penetrated the Hebrew language. Such are the word “Rabbi” and the Phrase “Salt of the earth”.


What is the Mishna?

After the Hebrew Bible, the Mishna is considered the most sacred book in Judaism. It consists of rabbinical decisions (called “Halacha”), which were first only “Oral Torah” and later put down in writing. In the year 206 AD, Rabbi Yehudah Hanasi chose to canonize the most essential rabbinical oral sayings. This is how the “Oral Torah” turned into a book. It was divided into 6 tractates. Those became the basis of the later Jerusalem and Babylonian Talmud, 300 years after canonizing the Mishna.


Are there similarities between the Mishna and the New Testament?

Both the Mishnah and the New Testament were written in a similar historical period. The Mishnah was edited in the early third century AD. The Gospel of Mark, the earliest book of the New Testament, was written just before the destruction of the first Jewish temple around the year 65. The Gospel of John was written at the end of the first century AD or the beginning of the second century AD. 

Although the Mishnah was written by Rabbi Yehuda Hanasi around 206 AD, most rabbis who are quoted in it lived in the centuries before its editing. Just to name a few: Hillel the Elder, Rabbi Simon son of Hillel and Rabbi John Ben Zakai, all of whom are contemporaries of Jesus. Because of this, there is an undeniable cultural bond between the Mishnah and the New Testament.


Were the Mishnah and the New Testament written in the same language?

No. The New Testament was written in Greek and the Mishnah was written in Hebrew. Rabbi Yehudah Hanasi insisted the Mishnah be written in Hebrew rather than Aramaic which was spoken by a majority of the population. 


Does the Mishnah show a negative tendency towards Jesus?

No. Jesus is not mentioned in the Mishnah. Later on, his name is mentioned in the Jewish Talmud 5 times. However, there is a dispute about whether the Jesus mentioned in the Talmud is the same man as Jesus of Nazareth. According to Jesus himself, he did not come to disobey the Bible but rather to fulfill it: “ Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them” ( Matthew 5:17).

In Jesus’s perception, he fulfills the law of the Old Testament to its fullest. This contradicts the opposing perception, according to which Jesus came to rebel against biblical law.

Which sites will We Tour in Galilee? (Northern Israel)

  1. Beth Shearim

    This is a necropolis from the time of the Mishnah. It is where Rabbi Yehuda Hanasi lived and edited the Mishnah. At the archaeological site, we will visit burial caves full of sarcophagi of Jews from all over the world. We will visit the burial Cave of Rabbi Yehuda Hanasi and observe a structure that may have been the house of the Sanhedrin. we will listen to stories about Rabbi Yehuda, his life story as well as his death according to the Mishnah.

    Beth Shearim
  2. Ancient magdala

    This is one of the most exciting archaeological excavations in Israel. It is considered to be the town of Mary of Magdalene. In the year 2009, a one-of-a-kind ancient synagogue was discovered. It was built right before the arrival of Jesus in the Sea of Galilee. The synagogue, which is dated to the first century AD, is the best-preserved of its kind. A unique stone carrying Jewish symbols was found on-site, revealing secrets from the past.

  3. Capernaum   

This is an old Jewish fisherman’s town. Jesus recruited his first disciples from Capernaum. In this town, Jewish communities as well as Jesus’s followers lived for hundreds of years after the time of Jesus. the largest Byzantine synagogue in Galilee can be found on site right across from a Byzantine church built on the house of Peter’s mother-in-law.


During our tour, we will learn about the Mishnah, the Jewish Talmud, and the New Testament. Through the eyes of archaeology, the connection between these ancient scriptures will come alive. Read about more day tours here.

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